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Blessing of the Fishing Fleet

Bonaire’s Fishing Fleet Receive An Annual Blessing.

Many visitors to Bonaire enjoy eating the “catch of the day,” but what they don’t know is exactly how that fresh fish lands on their plate.

The history of this tradition.

Bonaire has a fleet of fishing boats, and there are fishing families where the tradition has been handed down from generation to generation.  Many of these families have origins from Isla Margarita in Venezuela, and fishing traditions have been carried to Bonaire from there.

Bonaire’s fishermen go out day in and day out, in the early dawn hours, and fish all day.  They come back at the end of the afternoon and clean their catch.  It is then distributed to restaurants or sold from their own homes or small shops.  The sea on the island’s east coast is considered full ocean conditions and, many times, rife with waves and currents which batter the boats.  Although it is rare, sometimes boats can have problems at sea, and then the whole island comes together to help bring the stranded seamen home.

These hardy men do this job not only to provide for their families but because it is simply what they do.

The tradition has roots in Venezuela.

One of the traditions which came to Bonaire from Isla Margarita is the annual blessing of the fishing fleet.  The patron saint of fishermen is La Virgen del Valle or the Virgin of the Valley.  Her saint’s day is September 8th, and each year, on a weekend close to this date, the island’s fishing community gathers together to ask her for safety for their boats and seamen for the coming year.

The blessing of the fishing fleet tradition on Bonaire.

For the blessing of the fishing fleet, fishing boats in all sizes, shapes, and colors gather at the Fishermen’s Pier at Sorobon in Lac Bay.  Here, La Virgen is put on the lead boat, which then heads a parade out into the bay, where all the fishing boats give tribute to La Virgen by circling her boat before returning to the pier.

Upon arrival back on land, everyone gathers on the beach to celebrate Mass, which includes the blessing of the boats and fishermen.  Afterward, a small social gathering is held. As the sun sinks down low on the horizon, Bonaire’s fishing fleet is safe and sound until the next day’s dawn.

Ismail, one of Bonaire's fishermen.
The Virgin Mary is honored as the patron saint of fishermen.
A priest blesses the congregation.
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